ARE WE ARE SLOWLY KILLING OURSELVES WITH FOOD?
According WWF Livewell Report in 2011, globally there are 1.2 billion people who are overweight or obese. There are also the same number on the planet who go to bed suffering from deep hunger.
B-eat (Beating Eating Disorders) quotes that 160,000 people in the UK are suffering from Anorexia and 640,000 are Bulimic. With data hard to quantity because mostly it is not reported, they also believe there are further 800,000 people suffering with a wide variety of eating disorders including Binge Eating and Compulsive Eating.
The NHS study: “Statistics on obesity, physical activity and diet 2009” states that 24% of women are classified as obese with a BMI of 30 or more and 33% of women are overweight with a BMI of 25—30. A healthy weight is a BMI between 18.5—24.9.
The obesity statistics are heart wrenching. Food is essential to life. It’s also one of life’s pleasures. That so many people are battling everyday with food and their weight is so sad. Every year women across the western world are spending millions of pounds on so-called diet food, slimming products, tablets, diets and gym memberships because they so desperately want to shed their excess weight. And yet to me, in terms of addressing the issue of overweight, there is far too much misinformation and down-right ripping people off with promises that will never lead to a healthy weight.
I see there has been an almost invisible move over the last 50 years from buying food to buying brands. Food manufacturers spend millions of pounds on advertising these brands to us. And we unknowingly buy into them hook-line-and-sinker, because they ‘talk’ to us so much, we form a relationship with them. Let me share with you an example of how this works. We hear through the media there is a problem with our ever growing waist lines. We’re told we need to reduce our fat intake. Food manufacturers oblige by producing foods that are “Low Fat” foods, which they then advertise to us showing us beautiful people eating their products. We buy them because we are worried that have indeed become heavier. And yet we don’t stop to ask whether or not it is indeed fat in foods that is making us fat. Nor what the food manufacturers have done to the food to replace the fat.
Eating a diet of fried foods, and foods with a high fat content is not healthy. However, not all fat in food is unhealthy for example Essential Fats are needed for our health: they are called ‘essential’ because the body needs them and it can’t manufacture it itself. Yet until recently there has been no distinction: all fats were labelled as unhealthy.
So what happens when food companies take out fat from food? After the fat reduction processing, solid foods lose their form. To give it back, food manufacturers add starches and gums. Some of the cellulose that is used for this is the very same product that is used in wallpaper hanging paste (yuk!). To give the food bulk now the fat has been removed, sugar (in one of it’s many guises: see my TIPS article on Sugar) is often added too because it’s so cheap and if the food is savoury then there is a flavouring that acts as a de-sweetener which can be listed simply as a ‘flavouring’ on the ingredients list!
Clever advertising of food brands gives a feeling of knowing the food: yet notice how infrequently they tell you what’s actually in the food that they are selling. Or they highlight one message – like “Low Fat” but conveniently omit telling you that the processing destroyed the natural ingredients to the point they have to artificially add them back (e.g. virtually all breakfast cereals and margarines) or they bulked the food up with sugar. Foods with a higher sugar content will be digested very quickly – leading to a feeling of hunger again – leading you to want to eat more. Sugar is highly addictive. Sugar spikes your blood sugar levels which leads to a whole host of chemical reactions in your body to rebalance this, including the secretion of insulin. Too much too often and your body’s ability to secrete insulin to regulate blood sugar levels deteriorates. This is one of the causes for an increase in Type 2 Diabetes. After a mini high from foods with sugar, and after insulin has done it’s job, there is a slump in energy. This can lead to a vicious cycle of craving foods with a high sugar content (processed carbohydrates—bread, cereals, biscuits, cakes, crisps and so forth—to the body are all sugars) which leads to weight gain and often affects the quality of your sleep too. It suddenly starts to make sense why the obesity statistics are so high.
There are food manufacturers that are honourable and in integrity with how they source food, manufacture it and sell it. Sadly, they are still in the minority. The big guys focus on their financial bottom line, without genuinely caring that their products are having a terrible impact on our bottoms! Their defence is that we have asked for cheap food: and so they are providing it. And we have bought it: we need to be responsible too. But many of the big food manufacturers have such a large share of the market, that they increasingly control what we are eating. We largely don’t recognise this because there are so many different varieties. Next time you are shopping, take a look in the breakfast cereal aisle. How many cereals are there available if you ignore Nestle and Kelloggs? Or look how many chocolate bar manufacturers there are if you discount Mars, Cadbury and Nestle Rowntree? Nestle is everywhere! They own over 8,000 different brands worldwide—not all food—but if you were to remove Nestle products from our supermarket shelves, there would be huge empty spaces.
I hope you are beginning to see that in order to change our waist-lines we need to be more savvy with our food purchases. To make more informed choices, please begin by reading the labels of the foods you buy. Any food that has an ingredient that you you don’t recognise as a food, then PUT IT BACK on the shelf!
Getting to know and understand more about what is in your food and how it affects your body is all part of my Eat Well Be Well programs.